'We're getting out': Trump pulls U.S. from Paris climate deal

Donald Trump, paris climate agreement
U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday at the White House.

President Donald Trump, in a wide-ranging and at times conspiratorial speech Thursday, announced that he will move to extricate the United States from the landmark Paris Climate agreement brokered by more than 140 countries in late 2015.

Warning of the "massive redistribution of United States wealth," Trump described his decision to pull out in economic terms, saying the accord jeopardizes domestic jobs and energy industries.

Although early indications are that a full U.S. withdrawal could take until the end of Trump's elected term in 2020 to formally complete, the president vowed to immediately halt implementation efforts. Still, he said, the administration would consider another climate framework — maybe.

"The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord but begin negotiations to re-enter the Paris climate accord or an entirely new transaction," Trump said during the press conference, which was broadcast live online. "So we’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal. If we can, that's great. If we can’t, that’s fine."

With the move, which Trump repeatedly promised on the campaign trail, the United States joins Syria and Nicaragua in bucking the Paris accord. Among the most concrete provisions in the deal designed to limit global average temperatures increases to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius are national emissions reduction targets and a $100 billion global climate change mitigation fund.

In the Rose Garden press conference, Trump attempted to tow a line between attacking beneficial terms for other signatories to the Paris deal — namely China, India and the European Union — while insisting that the United States could maintain environmental protections without a comprehensive climate strategy.

"We’ll be the cleanest," said Trump, whose administration already has moved to roll back Obama-era water and energy rules. "We’re going to have the cleanest air. We’re going to have the cleanest water."

Citing statistics from a lone consulting firm called National Economic Research Associates, Trump said the Paris deal "could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025." He singled out the paper, automotive, cement and energy industries as those at risk of contraction in the event of more aggressive climate efforts.

"I happen to love the coal mines," Trump said. "The mines are starting to open up. We’re having a big opening in two weeks. They asked me if I’d go. I’m going to try."

Companies divided

A flood of both condemnations of Trump's decision and recommitments to the Paris accord by individual companies, local governments and non-governmental organizations emerged quickly in the wake of the official proclamation, rumored for days.

The Sierra Club called Trump's decision "a historic display of ignorance," while executives such as Tesla and SolarCity founder Elon Musk moved to distance themselves from the administration.

Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017

In recent days, others have reaffirmed previous joint statements of the corporate world's opposition to withdrawal.

Primary points of contention have been how withdrawing from the Paris agreement could stifle the market for corporate clean energy. Given that many companies have established internal emissions goals, the deal also was framed by some as a signal to the market that it was time to begin investing in long-term clean technologies.

Dear President Trump, as some of the largest companies in the US, we strongly urge you to keep the US in the Paris Agreement. pic.twitter.com/ztSXyYtRrm

— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) June 1, 2017

Still, amid a political battle that allegedly pitted chief Trump advisor and climate action critic Steve Bannon (somewhat ironically) against Secretary of State and former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, another divide has been evident among businesses.

While many familiar consumer brands and tech industry companies have been vocal in their support for the Paris deal, businesses in other industries have continued lobbying efforts to kill new climate measures.

A group of 22 U.S. Senators who have received upwards of $10 million in contributions from oil and gas industry donors since 2012, for instance, last week sent a letter to Trump encouraging the president to proceed with the withdrawal, the Guardian reported.

At the NRDC headquarters in San Francisco on May 31,  Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware), who sits on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said, "The intersection between sound environmental policy and sound business policy exists. The role of the federal government is to invest in [clean tech] research and development, help create a market and help get it started through tax policies for fuel cell, wind and solar technology."

Filling the void

How exactly Trump's decision will translate in real terms largely remains to be seen, though there are several specific ways the United States originally was intended to support the climate deal.

Even before Thursday's White House announcement, questions have swirled about which governments or other institutions might be willing or able to fill the void in the absence of U.S. support. On Wednesday, the BBC reported that a forthcoming joint statement from Chinese and European Union leaders will call the agreement "an imperative more important than ever" and reaffirms those nations' "highest political commitment" to implementation.

Among the other political entities that weighed in on the decision in advance was Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who British publication The Independent quotes as telling reporters that the country will continue to back the Paris agreement without U.S. involvement.

"President Putin signed this convention in Paris. Russia attaches great significance to it," Peskov reportedly told press on a conference call Thursday. "At the same time, it goes without saying that the effectiveness of this convention is likely to be reduced without its key participants."

For his part, Trump framed the Paris decision as one of many issues to keep an eye on.

"One by one we are keeping the promises I made," Trump said. "The fruits of our labor will be seen very shortly."